Sunday, 8 February 2015

St Michael's: Lionel St Clair Dickinson

2nd Lieut. Lionel St. Clair Dickinson
Died 16th September 1916

Date of Birth: June quarter 1893
Date of Death: 16th September 1916

Lionel St. Clair was the son of Dr. Alfred Ernest Christopher and Florence Janie Dickinson, of Grove House School, 53, South Grove, Highgate, London. He was living at that address with his family (father, mother, 14 year old sister Edith Gladys, 12 year old brother, Reginald Ernest Dickinson, 11 year old sister Elsie Vivienne, and 5 year old sister Kathleen Phyllis) in 1901.

In 1911 the family was living at Grove House School, 53 South Grove, Highgate. Lionel was working as a junior clerk for a foreign merchant. Lionel's father, Alfred Ernest Christopher Dickinson, was a 53 year old schoolmaster from Scarboro in Yorkshire. Lionel's 51 year old mother, Florence, was from Southampton. Lionel had 3 sisters, fashion artist Edith Gladys (24), Elsie Vivienne, and scholar Kathleen Phyllis. Also in the house, was Lionel's 80 year old grandmother, Emma Ann La Bois, an assistant schoolmaster, nine schoolboys and two servants.

Lionel St Clair served as a Signalling Officer with the 1st Battalion of the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) during his unit's involvement in the offensive on the Somme in 1916. Lionel's set of semaphore signalling self-instruction cards, entitled 'Semaphore Signalling in a Week' (by Lt Col W J Younger, 4th Royal Scots) was made by George Waterson & Sons Ltd, Wholesale Stationers (Edinburgh and London) is held at the Imperial War Museum and can be seen online at:

Service Details: 2nd Lieutenant – London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), 1st Bn., Signalling Officer
Place of Death: Somme, France
Place of Burial: Combles Communal Cemetery Extension, grave reference VI. E. 6.


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

St Michael's: Arthur Noel Bingley

Arthur Noel BINGLEY
Died 14th June 1916

Date of Birth: Dec quarter 1883
Place of Birth: Sutton, Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire

Arthur Noel Bingley was the son of the Rev. John Thomas Bingley and Jessie Bingley (née Wood), of 121, North Hill, Highgate, London. He had 3 brothers: William L., Edgar J. and Cuthbert H. By 1891, the census shows Arthur, a scholar, and his family living at 17 Park Street in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. His father was working as a Clerk in Holy Orders and a Professor of Music. In 1901, the census shows Arthur working as a Bookkeeper's Clerk, living at 121 North Hill, Highgate with his father, mother and brothers. His father was then Vicar of All Saints' Highgate at the time. In 1911, Arthur and his family were still residing at 121 North Hill. Arthur was working as a Merchant's Clerk.

Service Details: Second Lieutenant; Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), 110th Coy
Place of Death: France
Place of Burial: Hannescamps New Military Cemetery, plot F. 11
Commemorated: Highgate 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

St Michael's: Valentine Sandford Longman

Valentine Sandford LONGMAN
Died 1st September 1918

Date of Birth: March quarter 1886
Place of Birth: Highgate, Middlesex

Valentine Sandford was the son of Valentine Ignatius Roderique and Kate Parsons Longman (nee Beard). He had two sisters: Violet I and Enid M. By 1891, the census shows 5 year old Valentine with his family at 35 Carleton Road. In 1901, the census shows 15 year old Valentine boarding at Highgate School while his family was living at 35 Carleton Road, Islington. Valentine senior worked as a British and international wholesale newsagent. 

Service Details: In 1908 Valentine attested in the Honourable Artillery Company. He resigned 26 September 1910. In the Great War, Valentine served as a Major with the 19th Battery of the Royal Field Artillery
Place of Death: France
Place of Burial: HAC Cemetery, Ecoust-St Mien, plot VI. G. 17
Commemorated: Highgate 

St Michael's: Christopher Frank Challen

Christopher Frank CHALLEN
Died 13th November 1918

Date of Birth: March quarter 1895
Place of Birth: St Pancras, London

Christopher Frank was the son of Frank and Blanche Frances Challen (nee Harte). He had four living siblings: Philip, Katherine Mary, Gentian Patrica and Frances Elizabeth as well as a sibling who died before 1911. By 1901, the census shows the family living at 20 West Hill, St Pancras.
In 1911, the family were living at 62 Southwood Lane, Highgate.  Christopher was a scholar and his father worked as a managing director of a pianoforte manufacturing company.

Service Details: Lieutenant, Middlesex Regiment; Captain 1/7th Middlesex Regiment; Mentioned in Despatches
Place of Death: London
Place of Burial: Highgate Cemetery
Commemorated: Highgate Cemetery

St Michael's: Noel Coghlan Barrs

Noel Coghlan BARRS
Died 15th September 1916

Date of Birth: September quarter 1893
Place of Birth: Highgate, Middlesex

Noel Coghlan was the son of William and Harriette Barrs (nee Bayley). He had three brothers: Harwood, Edward and William. By 1901, the census shows that William had died and the family were living at 1, Holly Terrace, Highgate. Noel is shown as a 7 year old scholar.
In 1911, Noel is recorded on the census as a boarder at St Bees School in Cumberland.

Service Details: Second Lieutenant, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), 11th Battalion
Place of Death: France
Place of Burial: No Known Grave
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 11 C)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

E. H. Phillips

Edward Howard Phillips (1885-1936) is not on the Roll of Honour for St Michael's Church. Not only did he (thankfully) survive the war, but he lived just beyond the bounds of the parish. Instead, he is of significance to us today as the grandfather of the current St Michael's PCC secretary, Mary Embleton. Edward's experiences also give us deeper insight into the varied lives of local men who served overseas and the families they left behind.

Private E. H. Phillips in uniform during the First World War
Edward Howard Phillips was born in Saint Pancras on 25th February 1885. A few months after his 30th birthday, on 19th June 1915, Edward (or Ted as he was known) married his sweetheart, Ethel Olive Partridge, in St Pancras Register Office. The witnesses were Ethel's sister, Jess Partridge, and her future husband Jack Mansell.
Food Card of Private E. H. Phillips, RAF 66 Wing
At the time of his attestation into the armed forces on 23rd July 1917, Ted was working as a clerk and living close to Highgate Village at number 2, West Hill. His Admiralty records reveal that he was 5'4 3/4'' tall, with black hair, brown eyes, a dark complexion and a tattooed left forearm. Ted enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), but ended the war as a Private 1, number 234034 of the Royal Air Force (RAF). He served with administrative units, including the President II, the Queen II, Pembroke II, before being assigned to the Royal Navy Balloon Base. Ted was sent to Brindisi, Italy in February 1918.
Mary has inherited a superb collection of seven letters written by Ted to his new wife while he was away on service. During the war Ethel lived with her parents at 6 Hilldrop Crescent, on the border of Holloway and Kentish Town.
On the 4th February 1918, Ethel received the following letter from Ted:

Ten days later, on the 14th April 1918, Ted wrote again to Ethel:

While serving with the RAF Adriatic Group, Ted also sent Ethel seven Rough Riders Postcards (blank on the back), the Rough Riders Badge (from the collar in the photograph above) and a postcard from Italy.

In September, Ted wrote from his base in Brindisi:

Edward wrote again in October, enclosing a cameo for Ethel's birthday.

Ethel had the cameo made into a ring. This is now in Mary's possession.
The ring that Mary's grandmother had made with the cameo mentioned in Ted's letter.
Four days letter, Ted wrote a longer letter:

Edward H. Phillips remained in the RAF after the Armistice in November 1918. He was given an extension of leave in February 1919 and finally transferred to RAF G Reserve on 20th March 1919. Mary's mother was born on 8th October 1919.

On 30th April 1920, Ted was deemed discharged from the RAF. For his service in the Great War, he was awarded the British War and Victory Medals, both of which Mary has today.
Edward H. Phillips' campaign medals

Sunday, 20 July 2014

St Michael's: Cuthbert Gordon Willis

Cuthbert Gordon Willis, just before the Battle of Messines Ridge, where he was killed (with kind permission of Alistair Willis, great-nephew of Cuthbert Gordon Willis)

Cuthbert Gordon Willis
Died 1 November 1914

Date of Birth: 29 March 1892
Place of Birth: Mitcham, Surrey

Cuthbert Gordon Willis was born in Mitcham, Surrey on 29 March 1892 to Cuthbert Gordon Willis, an ironmonger, and Annie. His siblings were Margaret Helena, Albert Thomas, Enid Annie, Dorothy Susannah, Norah Grace, and Gwyneth Mary. In 1901 Cuthbert was living with his parents and siblings at his father's ironmonger's shop at 51 High Street, Highgate. In 1911, he was working as an Engineer Turner and was living with his family at 19 Maclise Road, West Kensington. In his Grave Registration, he is referred to as "Native of Highgate, London". It would appear this is why Cuthbert is commemorated on the St Michael's Roll of Honour.

Service Details: Private 1682 of London Regiment (London Scottish) 1st/14th Battalion

Place of Death:1 November 1914
Place of Burial: No Known Grave
Commemorated: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Panel 54

Since this blog began, we are fortunate to have been contacted by a number of readers in Australia who have some connection to men named on the St Michael's Roll of Honour. Last month, we were contacted by Alistair Willis in Queensland, whose great uncle was Cuthbert Gordon Willis. Although Cuthbert was born in Surrey, he was baptized alongside his siblings at St Michael's on 11 February 1897.

Willis was killed very early in the war, on 1 November 1914. Alistair's father was born two weeks later and named after him. Alistair's father, Cuthbert Gordon Wills (the third), attended St Michael's School and is believed to have sung in the church choir circa 1920.

Alistair wrote:
"The person in question’s father was also named Cuthbert Gordon Willis who was a partner in an ironmonger business in Streatham. One fine day in 1894 he mounted his penny farthing bicycle and rode over to Hampstead Heath and eventually Highgate Village and so overcome by the beauty of the countryside that was so different from Streatham he decided to establish an ironmonger business at 51 High Street.
So, in 1896, Cuthbert and his wife Annie and six children, including Cuthbert Gordon Willis (Junior) are living in Highgate and operating an ironmongery business

C.G.Willis & Co. Ironmongers and Cycle Agents, circa 1900 (with kind permission of Alistair Willis)
Cuthbert’s wife Annie died in 1904 aged 45 and was buried in Carnarvon. It was at this time that Cuthbert left Highgate setting up a new business right under the entrance of Olympia in West Kensington and continued until 1948 to sell all the exhibitions enormous quantities of ironmongery.

Cuthbert had been in a rush to get to Olympia but retained the Highgate business for his eldest son Albert Thomas to run but Albert was not yet old enough to run the Highgate business. In the interim Cuthbert leased the business, an arrangement that was terminated in 1905 with C. G. Willis & Co. being replaced with a partnership between Cuthbert and son Albert Thomas, C. G. Willis & Son.

Also living in Highgate at this time, in Langdon Road (renamed Bredgar Road in 1937), were John and Eliza Ketley. John was originally from Chelmsford and a builder’s labourer. In 1901 a nephew born in Chelmsford called Ephraim William Havers, aged 13, was living with them. John must have struck up a friendship with Cuthbert and his eldest son Albert Thomas through the ironmonger business supplying building materials to John. In turn Ephraim, known as Billy Havers, became very good friends with Albert and subsequently Godfather to Albert’s son, Gordon.
Albert’s brother, Cuthbert Gordon Willis (Junior) was born in . . . 1892, the fifth of the six children. After school he became an apprentice engineer, turner and fitter.  Cuthbert, with war against Germany looming, enlisted as a Private in the 1st/14th Battalion of the London Regiment (London Scottish).

The London Scottish became the first territorial army unit to see action in World War One. Packed into 34 London buses, they arrived at Ypres at 3 am on October 29, 1914. Together with their commanding officer Sir Douglas Haig they had a brief rest and breakfast, before marching on to Geluvelt to build trenches. After a hard day's work, the battalion marched back to Ypres for rest. This was not to be, however. When they arrived at the Cloth Hall, more buses were waiting to take them on to another destination -Armentières - where they were to support the 2nd Division Cavalry at St Elooi. Again they began the day by digging trenches but at 8am received new orders. The London Scottish set off for Messines Ridge where an opening had been forced in the Allied frontline.

Their task was to reinforce the Allied line and close the opening near what were known as Hun's Farm and Middle Farm. Twice the London Scottish not only halted German attacks but forced the Germans back from the ridge, despite the fact that the Scots themselves were in an open position, faced overwhelming odds in numbers and were forced to make do with malfunctioning weapons and ammunition. A third attack saw the German troops break through the London Scottish defences, leaving the Battalion with heavy casualties and cut off from headquarters. To avoid total destruction of the Battalion, orders were given for a retreat.

Further attacks on German positions on the ridge were continued by the British infantry and the French Brigade. Although the ridge was captured by the German Army, the efforts of the London Scottish had won time and ultimately prevented a far superior force breaking through to Ypres. The Scots had lost 394 of their 700 officers and men in their short time on the ridge. Cuthbert Gordon was one of those losses, killed in action on 1 November 1914 only 2 days after arriving at the front.
Back of the photograph of Cuthbert Gordon Willis reproduced at the top of this post (with kind permission of Alistair Willis)
Cuthbert’s older brother Albert and his wife Elizabeth’s first child was born in Highgate at 51 High Street, on 13 November 1914, less than two weeks after Cuthbert’s death in Belgium. In honour of Cuthbert, the child was named Cuthbert Gordon Willis however would be known as Gordon. 
Amazingly, Gordon’s Godfather, Billy Havers, was with the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 in France and came across a photo of Cuthbert which had been taken in a photographic studio near the front line [see image above]. He gave it to Cuthbert’s brother Albert who then passed it onto his sister Gwen in September 1916. Billy Havers went on to have an illustrious career in the military retiring in 1948 as Air Vice-Marshal Sir Ephraim William Havers, KBE.

C.G.Willis & Son, Highgate, 1926 (with kind permission of Alistair Willis)
Albert Willis moved the business from 51 to 62 High Street and continued to operate there until the 1960s when he retired and sold out." 
Albert Thomas Willis at his Highgate shop (with kind permission of Alistair Willis)